The last person who reported seeing missing Donegal child Mary Boyle alive has died .
inger Margo O’Donnell, a relative of Mary’s who has campaigned for years for information about her disappearance, told the Irish Independent she sat down and cried when she heard the news.
Mary was six when she vanished from the remote mountainside of Cashelard, Ballyshannon, Co Donegal on St Patrick’s Day in 1977.
She and her family, including her twin sister Ann, were visiting her grandparents from their home in Burtonport.
Her disappearance has haunted those who knew and loved her every day since.
Mary’s uncle Gerry Gallagher died on Wednesday after a short illness.
On the day of her disappearance, Mary, dressed in trousers and a knitted cardigan, her long hair tied back with a ribbon, followed her uncle Gerry across the bog land between her grandparents’ house and their nearest neighbours, the Cawleys.
Mr Gallagher, who had been working on the roof, went to Cawleys to return a ladder.
It was a distance of approximately 400 yards.
The return trek to her grandparents’ farmhouse should have taken no more than five minutes
At around 3.45pm, Mary walked behind her uncle towards the Cawleys’ house, and when she reached a water-filled patch, he told her to turn back.
She was last seen by her uncle, eating a packet of Tayto crisps, it was reported.
The return trek to her grandparents’ farmhouse should have taken no more than five minutes.
In the meantime, Mr Gallagher chatted briefly with the Cawleys and returned to the house at 4.30pm.
By this time, Mary was missing.
Gardaí, family and scores of neighbours scoured the 450-yard stretch of land between the only two houses in the area in a search that escalated over the following weeks into a trawl of bog holes, lakes, streams and the countryside beyond.
No trace of Mary was ever found.
The entire lake at Upper Cashelard behind her grandparents’ house was drained. A trench was dug by a mechanical digger. The search of the bog yielded nothing.
I just want her to have a decent burial
But Ms O’Donnell believes Mary still lies alone on the mountainside.
“I don’t want anyone to serve a day for Mary’s disappearance or her death.
“But I just want her to have a decent burial and proper resting place rather than lying up there in the mountain somewhere.
“I don’t think she ever left Cashelard,” Ms O’Donnell said.
Ms O’Donnell told the Irish Independent that even now, almost 46 years later, Mary is never too far from her thoughts.
The news that Mary’s uncle, Mr Gallagher, had died brought the painful memories back into focus.
“I got the news from Mary’s twin he had passed away. It’s sad. It just brings everything back.
“It has been a terrible, terrible story. I knew Mary Boyle; I was privileged to know her. She was a beautiful lovely wee girl.
“I believe somebody out there still knows what happened to Mary.
“And I would plead with anyone who has information to know that it is never too late. If we could just find Mary’s body and give her a Christian burial with her dad.
“My mother and Mary’s grandmother were related, they came from the same island.
“And I knew her dad Charlie all my life.
“It’s very sad, and I would dearly love it if someone knew something they would please say it.”
In 2016 gardaí announced a new investigation into Mary’s disappearance, with all evidence and suspects to be re-examined.
Gardai said the new cold case team would have no preconceived ideas of who was or was not a suspect and that all evidence would be followed.
Mary, who is the longest missing child in modern Ireland, would be 52 if she were alive today.
I still hope she will be found before I die
Ann and Mary’s mother, also called Ann, said in a previous interview that she hopes her daughter is found before she dies.
“I still think of her as the special little girl I remember, but I do wonder too what she would be like now and where in her life she would be.
“My husband Charlie died 15 years ago not knowing where Mary is.
“Her disappearance took a toll on his health and on all of us.
“And I still hope she will be found before I die.”